Joan Buchanan is a writing instructor and storyteller, and the author of
Taking Care of My Cold! and The Nana Rescue.
I cried the first time I read Tiger Flowers aloud. It’s a
compassionate work about a boy reminiscing about his relationship with,
and grieving for, his uncle, who has died of AIDS. Uncle Michael and
Joel have built a tree house together, tended flowers, gone to ball
games, and made a storybook—the memories are fond and the loss is
deep. Without being sentimental, didactic, or pat, Patricia Quinlan
informs and sensitizes the young listener/reader. The success of the
story has to do with its being convincingly told from a child’s point
of view. (It’s not clear how old Joel is, but he seems somewhere
between 6 and 8.) Quinlan integrates metaphors well: Uncle Michael
comments on the unfairness of a tiger caged in the zoo, and tiger lilies
are his favorite flower.
Janet Wilson’s illustrations are warm and emotive. The pictures
inform and deepen the text. For instance, when Uncle Michael gets sick
and comes to live at Joel’s house, Joel explains how you can’t catch
AIDS the way you catch chicken pox. Wilson shows little sister Tara
hugging Uncle Michael while Joel sits comfortably beside them, the
makings of paper airplanes strewn about, and Joel’s mother leans
against a wall, looking happily on—a loving and contented scene.
The book’s cover, infused with mellow oranges, golds, yellows, and
greens, and backlit with the morning sun as Joel looks lovingly at tiger
lilies, can be used to judge this book, which is highly recommended on